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Together Detroit: Companies offer relief to the community

BCBSM, Comerica Bank, DTE Energy, Oakland University and Uber all doing so

by Staff / DetroitRedWings.com

Companies across the country are increasing their efforts to help out communities impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.

That continues to be the case in Michigan.

Because of disruptions in health care services due to the pandemic, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network will return more than $100 million to many of their fully insured customers this year.

Those refunds are in addition to $494 million that BCBSM invested in expanding the availability of no-cost benefits for members and to support health care providers in response to the pandemic.

Tweet from @BCBSM: We recently announced actions we���re taking to return more than $100 million to many fully insured customers this year. https://t.co/FYk7Dns1B2

"For 81 years, Blue Cross has stood behind our members' care in good times and bad," said BCBSM President & CEO Daniel J. Loepp. "We've been proactive in addressing the pandemic, providing no-cost benefits for members and advancing millions of dollars to care providers. Now we can return money to our customers and members."

There have been many people and groups donating money to feeding health care workers on the front lines.

One Comerica Bank employee, Will Rawls, a senior analyst in the bank's institutional trust group, started a Facebook "Baking Angel" fundraising effort to make and deliver baked goods to those health care workers.

"I have two family members that are caterers and my aunt who passed a long time ago was the best baker ever," Rawls told CSR Wire. "I've baked for years and 'Yo Baker Man' started as just a tag joke on Facebook.

"Beaumont Hospital is my neighbor as it's only two blocks from me. Since I like to bake, I thought it'd just be a nice gesture to treat the health care workers, given the huge amount of stress they are facing daily."

Through his Facebook fundraiser, Rawls raised more than $1,500.

When Comerica heard about Rawls' kindness, the company wanted to help him do even more so it matched the donations.

Tweet from @ComericaBank: Comerica Bank colleague Will Rawls goes by the name ���Baking Angel���. Will and fellow colleagues helped deliver food to essential workers at @BeaumontHealth, @HenryFordNews and the Wayne County Sheriff���s Department in Detroit. #ThankYouEssentialWorkers #HealthCareHeroes #yobakerman pic.twitter.com/670lwLGRAc

On April 30, Rawls, Comerica Vice President Joe Molnar and colleague Brian Brown delivered 100 bagged lunches to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak and an additional 100 lunches to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

The dessert featured many homemade 'Yo Baker Man' treats, including brownies, lemon blueberry muffins, Oreo cheesecake muffins, sweet potato squares, marbled fudge bars and chocolate almond toffees.

"Even before taking this on, I had full appreciation to the ever-evolving struggles that come with fighting COVID-19," Rawls said. "There are so many people who are dying or have long terms effects, and there is still so much unknown and that's the scary part. "My hat is off to them as my job does not involve life or death consequences, so I salute them for taking on this responsibility and dedicating all their hard work to saving people."

In mid-May, Comerica Bank partnered with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan Women Forward in the creation for the $1.5 million Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund, which was started to support entrepreneurs and small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 in recovering from the pandemic as well as meeting the increased demands of COVID-19 response efforts.

Tweet from @CSRwire: Comerica Bank to Support $1.5 Million Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund Helping Small Businesses Recover, Pivot in Response to COVID-19 https://t.co/gXuAanzlLc

"The stability and growth of small businesses and entrepreneurs significantly contribute to the economic vitality of our communities, as they provide important employment opportunities and deliver valuable goods and services," said Mike Ritchie, Comerica Bank Michigan market president, in a statement. "Supporting these businesses as they fight to survive will have a long-term impact on their success and on our cities and state. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan Women Forward have proven critical in providing exceptional support to businesses, and we believe partnering in the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund will help deliver vital resources to businesses for survival and recovery."

The Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund is offering recovery grants of $1,000-$5,000 and micro loans of $5,000-$10,000 to small businesses in need that have been adversely affected by COVID-19 closures.

At least 150 business across the state are expected to benefit.

DTE Energy has started a new program, "Caring in the Crisis," which is designed to raise awareness among metro Detroit residents so that those who need help know how to get it during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This includes a series of public service announcements and digital messages encouraging customers to reach out to DTE Energy to explore payment assistance and financial help options if they are currently facing financial crisis due to the crisis.

On May 22, a "Day of Caring" radio event took place on Detroit stations WJLB, WDMK and WDMK HD2, with messages from community leaders and elected officials alerting Detroiters to take advantage of the available assistance.

Tweet from @DTE_Energy: Thanks, @MayorMikeDuggan and @BushmanOnAir for helping spreading the word out. If you or someone you know needs help paying their DTE bill, please give us a call at 800.477.4747. There are several payment plans for our customers. https://t.co/dh4FjpNwbz

"Throughout this crisis, we have had one core message to our communities, and that's 'we're here to help you," said Angie Pizzuti, vice president and chief customer officer, DTE Energy. "There are many people who have never had problems making ends meet, and now are experiencing income loss and don't know where to turn. We want to connect with them right away to deliver the help that DTE and the state have made available to them."

So many students have been affected by the pandemic and schools have worked diligently to take care of them as best they can.

Oakland University is among those reaching out to its students during this difficult time:

"The Oakland University community understands that uncertainty and unpredictability can be scary. But remember, we are here for you. We vow to continue to work with students and families and provide you with the same level of support and engagement that we have committed to for every Golden Grizzly."

Tweet from @oaklandu: During challenging times and changing times, during uncertainty and unknown, Oakland University is here for you. Here to empower you. Right here, in your backyard. Discover resources, opportunities, and services available to you at https://t.co/Slxg443x0O. pic.twitter.com/Dwt1eELKkE

Oakland University moved instruction online, while retaining one-on-one attention and discussion-based classes that are hallmarks of the in-person instruction. OU is preparing to welcome students back for fall semester.

The university also has emergency funds, renewable scholarships and flexible payment plans for students.

Uber has spent $19 million to help nearly 50,000 drivers and food delivery couriers who got sick with COVID-19 or had to self-quarantine.

In addition, the company allocated $50 million to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) for drivers around the world.

Tweet from @Uber: As we all begin to move again, access to cleaning materials and personal protective equipment is critical.We���ve allocated $50 million to purchase supplies like masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant sprays and wipes. pic.twitter.com/3bWlcKqlbM

More than two million workers have accessed Uber's COVID-19 Resources Hub.

Uber also launched a Work Hub to list employment opportunities and online guides for its workers to assist them in applying for coronavirus relief funds.

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